"How do I know when I am caretaking and when I am being loving?"
I get asked this question quite frequently. The answer lies in understanding your intent.
Caretaking comes from the ego wounded self and the intent behind caretaking is to control. When you are caretaking, you are giving yourself up to do what someone else wants you to do in the hopes of having control over getting approval or avoiding disapproval or anger. When you are caretaking, you are taking responsibility for another person's feelings while ignoring your own. Frequently, you are doing for others what they need to be doing for themselves — which means that you are enabling them.
While it might look loving to caretake others, it is anything but loving. It is not loving to abandon yourself. It is not loving to give to get — giving with an agenda to get approval or avoid disapproval. It is not loving to enable others in not taking responsibility for themselves.
Loving behavior toward others comes from our loving adult self — which is who we are when we are connected with a spiritual source of love and wisdom. When you are loving others, you are giving to them for the joy of giving to them. The intent behind the giving is to share your love. You don't need anything from the other person because you are already full of love from having taken loving care of yourself.
There is no agenda attached to loving behavior. How the other person responds is fine, because you don't need anything back, nor do you expect anything back. You are giving for the pure joy of giving and are further filled in the act of giving.
Care-giving is a particular form of loving behavior. You are care-giving when you are giving to another what that person needs and cannot do for himself or herself. When you are care-giving, sometimes you do things even though you don't feel like doing them, because you love or care about the other person's well-being. An example of care-giving is taking care of children, even when you have to get up in the middle of the night and don't want to. You are care-giving when you take care of an old person or a sick person — doing for them what they cannot do for themselves.
Sometimes care-giving gives you joy, and other times it is difficult, but it never has an agenda attached. You are being kind because it makes you feel good to be kind — not because you are trying to get something back from the other person.
Often clients will say to me, "Isn't there a fine line between caring and caretaking?"
No, it is not a fine line at all. There is not a fine line between the intent to control and the intent to be loving to yourself and others. The confusion comes in because the action may be exactly the same. For example, you might make dinner for your partner for the pure joy of giving, or you might make dinner to get approval or avoid disapproval. While the action of making dinner is the same, the energy of it is totally different because the intent is totally different. Food made with love even tastes different than food made out of fear, guilt or obligation.
When you give from your ego wounded self with the intent to control, you will eventually end up feeling resentful and used. When you give from your loving adult self with the intent to share your love, you will feel filled in the giving, regardless of how the other person responds.
To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with your partner and others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week home study eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox" – the first two weeks are free! ! Discover SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.
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This article was originally published at Inner Bonding
. Reprinted with permission from the author.